XSI Taiwan: A Reflection Paper from a Student-Participant

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Many conflicting emotions surrounded my thoughts. Even thinking about the upcoming Taiwan trip made me excited yet uneasy at the same time. The day finally came, April 10, 2023, when I would arrive in Taiwan. 30 days of happiness and problems would go by and I realized that Taiwan was a blessing in disguise. Even if I encountered many difficulties, I was also able to learn from these to become a better person. Not only that but, the good that I experienced in Taiwan has impacted me in many ways.

When I arrived in Taiwan, the many difficulties I would encounter became clear. Mostly trivial matters that I would never understand if I never agreed to go on this trip. One of these issues would be taking cleanliness into account. At home, I have helpers to clean up my room and after my messes. In Taiwan, I had to clean my eating utensils, fix my bed, and most importantly, clean my room by myself. As a result of this experience, I learned to be more independent and responsible. Another predicament I encountered in this trip was budgeting money. Looking back at my life before the trip, I did not care about money. I would just ask my parents to buy things for me. However, when I was in Taiwan, I had to budget my money wisely. I realized that money was a problem during the last week of the trip, when I had to borrow 1000 New Taiwan Dollars from my supervisor. I felt guilty about this since borrowing more money honestly just defeats the purpose of having a set budget. One more problem that I experienced in Taiwan was their living conditions. I cannot even fathom being a Taiwanese student and studying for 12 hours a day! In the Philippines, we only have classes for 6-7 hours. Moreover, we slept on bunk beds in our dorms. These beds were remarkably stiff, which made it exceedingly difficult to sleep. On the first night, it was so difficult to fall asleep because the bed was so uncomfortable! After coming to terms with these obstacles, I realized that life on my own is difficult. As a matter of fact, I now feel grateful that I am back to living my comfortable life in the Philippines, where the problems are non-existent. Although this may be true, I will make sure these lessons are implanted into my mind as I get older.

Even though the many challenges I faced in this trip give off an impression that my experience was terrible, the truth is that many activities, places, and people made an impact on me in a meaningful way. For example, the hospitality and kindness of the Saint Ignatius High School students were some of the things that made an impact on me. I was surprised that the students were willing to sacrifice their time to make their lives in Taiwan more comfortable. One instance of this is a student named Ricky. He was a senior in Saint Ignatius. Instead of studying for himself, he chose to guide us throughout our expeditions outside of the school’s campus. The Taiwanese students were able to impact me since I realized that they should be our role models as Xaverians because they are truly “men for others”.

An activity that made an impact on me was crossing the Buluowan suspension bridge in Hualien. For some background information, we stayed in Hualien for one whole weekend, with many activities like a special type of fishing, mochi making, and most importantly, crossing a suspension bridge. This was the Buluowan suspension bridge with a length of 196 meters and a width of 2.5 meters which is suspended over 370 meters from the ground. At first, I refused to go because I was afraid of heights. After some thinking, I realized that this was a once in a lifetime experience and that I should cross. I started crossing. My hands and legs were shaking, I can’t breathe and my eyes started tearing up. Then, I felt my feet landing on the pavement. I looked up and I realized that I did it! I made it to the other side! Going back was a breeze, as I realized that the bridge was sturdy and safe to cross. Now, I am less frightened when I encounter heights. This experience impacted me because I was able to overcome my fear. These two experiences present vastly different valuable lessons from each other. One, I should be like the Saint Ignatius students who were always hospitable and kind to us, even if we are not always like that to them. Two, I should do everything I come across since I only live once.

This trip made me a better person through all of the hardships I experienced. I was able to learn many things that will impact my life positively. One, I should be grateful for my comfortable life. My living conditions are clearly different than the ones of the students living and studying in their school. I can say this because I was able to live the life of a Taiwanese student. The beds in their dorms are stiff, they have to study for longer hours than I do, and they have to clean on their own. After experiencing these things for a whole month, I can say, with conviction, that I should be thankful that I live a comfortable life in the Philippines. Another lesson I learned in Taiwan was to be more hospitable and kind like the Taiwanese students. Moreover, I should also be prouder of my country like how the Taiwanese are of theirs. I can say this since they stand with pride during their flag ceremonies which occur every Monday. Lastly, I should remember that I only live once. I should get out of my comfort zone to experience the wonders of life. Speaking of this, going out of my comfort zone is important so that I would grow as a person by experiencing new challenges to conquer. I was able to do this by crossing the Buluowan suspension bridge in Hualien. I was able to grow from this experience by being less scared of heights.

From this trip, I realized that living independently is very difficult. Whether it is cleanliness or budgeting money, my life will always have problems that I have to solve. Sometimes, I will have someone to turn to and sometimes I will not, so I have to adjust to the situation I am in. In this trip, I was able to learn how to clean and budget money on my own, which are both valuable matters to apply in the future. Some situations that I experienced in Taiwan are things that I could never realize in my comfortable life in the Philippines, so I should also be grateful for the stuff I have. I was even able to learn that it is important to get out of my comfort zone. Life was mainly fun in Taiwan because I had to get out of my comfort zone all of the time, which means that I always had something to do and think about. Even through all of this, I was able to realize the beauty of Taiwan, which makes me certain that I will visit there again. By and large, I think that I was able to learn a lot of life lessons from this trip, which will surely benefit me in the long run. Now, I feel unhappy that this trip is over but even through this, I am also excited to apply my learnings in the future.

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